4 out of 4 stars
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“Over the past 10 years, 71 Americans have been killed by terrorism versus 302,000 by gun violence”. This quote from Final Notice by Van Fleisher duly sets the premise of this soft science fiction novel.
Green Valley, Arizona. A lone shooter opens fire on a gathering of seniors in a retirement home, killing 6 and injuring many. The shooter is an 89-year old retired vice-president of a bank. He is shot and killed on the spot by security guards.
Boynton Beach, Florida. A retired truck driver shoots himself with a MAC pistol. It was on his birthday and he had just turned 66.
Joplin, Missouri. An 85-year old retired Apple engineer walks into a store and shoots and kills a young cashier. Nothing was taken from the store.
The only clues tying together the three shootings, besides the age group of the assailants, is the discovery of a gun, a smartphone and a sports watch in their possession. The FBI is brought in to investigate and all fingers point to the sports watch - a new generation health monitoring device called the VitalTech2 or simply VT2.
The VT2 is a revolutionary innovation that is advanced way ahead of its time. Not only can the device monitor health in real time, but one of its unique processing abilities is that it can accurately predict a person’s death once his health begins to deteriorate and death was inevitable. This special function is called “Final Notice” and can be set to issue a warning of impending death to a number of days. What people decide to do when they receive their final notice alert is as diverse and unpredictable as human motivations and behavior. For some, the desire to kill for revenge or to eliminate an evil from the world is made possible by the easy access to a gun.
The VT2 is still in the testing phase when the spate of killings brings the watch to the attention of the media, and it quickly takes on the notorious name of ‘’The Killer Watch’’. For some people, knowing that you are about to die also means knowing that you can kill anyone you like with impunity. The producers of the watch are thrown into a moral dilemma as they debate their decision to include the final notice feature in the device. The Final Notice option happens to be the watch’s unique selling point and, if anything, news reports on the role of VT2 in the shootings only served to increase market demand for the product. While reading the book, one is forced to consider the question of whether VT2 is indeed responsible for the killings or whether the problem is caused by the proliferation of guns in America which makes it easy for people to translate feelings of extreme hate and hopelessness into actual murder.
The author touches on important current issues in America; topics such as gun control, racial and religious prejudice, discrimination against minorities, media indoctrination and misinformation, throttling of public opinion, and politics of personal gain are each given special attention in the book. Another important social issue highlighted is the plight of senior citizens in American society. I never understood the extent to which the irreverent treatment of old people by some bullies could seriously hurt their pride until I read Van Fleisher’s book. I am grateful for the lesson and I hope other readers benefit from this insight too.
However, the author’s anti-gun stance came out a bit too strongly in the book, thereby prejudicing the reader to accept a single point of view. Even though the arguments presented by the author in this fictional piece are factual and persuasive, I feel that the differing views of gun rights advocates, global warming skeptics, and anti-immigration proponents were not well articulated. Moreover, the author's use of unflattering words to describe these groups, such as “low-functioning morons”, came across as too intense and a bit personal. I’m not a believer in the good vs bad dichotomy, and it is only by hearing both sides of an argument that an audience can be genuinely won over.
Personally, I benefited greatly from the book’s exposé on the dangers of relaxed gun control and gun proliferation. After reading Fleisher's book, it is irrefutable that a high level of gun regulation is necessary for a safe society. An observation made by a Syrian character, Rasha, in the book consummately captures this point when she asked a reporter why so many people in America have guns and why children were being shot in schools when this was not war-torn Syria and there were no rebels or ISIS in America. Her speech practically brought tears to my eyes.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars because it is well researched and beautifully written; I enjoyed the book's strong theme, complex plot and dark humor. The plot was fast-pasted and its different facets tied up nicely together. There was nothing monotonous about the narrative, every crime scene was unique and engaging. However, the story had a rather slow start at the beginning when too much attention was given to Vince and Judi's domestic life and a recount of their purchase of a MacBook laptop. If I hadn’t already read good reviews about the book, I wouldn’t have been motivated to continue reading. But on all accounts, it turned out to be a good read. I highly recommend this book to people interested in social consciousness; those who wish to gain insight into the social and political climate in America today; and anyone who wants to learn how to make foreign friends and benefit from the advantages of living in a multicultural society.
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